Saturday, August 04, 2018

On why we do anything

There are 3 reasons why we have to do anything:

1) We want to do it
2) We have to do it
3) We do it so others don't have to do it

Reason (1) is more ego-centric, where we focus on the needs of ourselves. Reason (3) is more focused on the needs of a larger community of which we are a part of. 

This concept came to me when I observed my 17-month-old child transition from (1) to (2). Initially, all the things he does is just because he wants to do it. As he slowly understands our household rules, and later, the rules of the society of which he is a part of, he starts doing things because he has to. He might not like it and it might not be what he wants to do, but he will have to do it. I have not seen him doing things because of reason (3) and hopefully, that will come when he gets older.

I have an example that illustrates these 3 reasons - that of clearing trays in hawker centres. Usually, nobody wants to do the dirty work of clearing trays. In Tampines, at the site of the old Tampines stadium, there is a food court when there is an automated tray clearing thing that looks somewhat like those conveyor belt system carrying plates of sushi around. I thought that was pretty cool, so I really wanted to clear my trays just to see how it works. I guess the novelty wears off after a while. But when do we really have to clear trays? Maybe when they start charging a fine? Or giving an incentive? In another perspective, the cleaner is the one who has to clear the trays, because he/she is employed for that purpose.

The really interesting part comes when we talk about clearing our own trays so that others don't have to do it for us. Or we clear trays left by others that are not even on our table so that a person carrying a tray of hot food does not have to clear it. I thought that idea really gels with the philosophy of leaving the place better than when we came in. I think the Japanese are really great at this. We always read reports of Japanese football fans picking up rubbish and clearing the place after the event ended.

I also realised that after having a kid, I tend to do things based on reason (3) more often. My wife and I are the primary care-takers and we have no domestic helpers. After work, I'm usually tired and what I really wanted to do is to have my own me-time to recuperate. But I have to do some baby stuff so that my wife doesn't have to do it. I mean there's only me and her. If not me, then who? Perhaps I can also extend this idea to the larger society, treating them like my family. If I don't do things, then who shall do it? If I see a piece of rubbish on the streets, and I didn't throw it there, so while I don't want to pick it up, neither is it my responsibility to pick it up, I should pick it up so that others don't have to do it.

That should make Singapore a much better place to live it for everyone, yes?

As such, I strive to teach that to my kid. I want him to take care of himself first, then take care of others. He cannot be doing things mainly because of reasons (1) and (2) alone. He exists in a larger community of which he is a part of, and he ought to do more things out of reason (3). For him to do so, I must also show him that I am doing so. I need to be a good role model for him to follow.

Thanks, son, for making me better than I am now.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


While at fast food outlets and at the hawker centres, I like to people watch who clears their own trays and who just pick-up and leave.

Then there are the minority who leave the tables in a BIG mess!? I often wonder how they would eat at home!

One word,


la papillion said...


Hmm, while it's not wrong to say it's upbringing, but sometimes we have to see what gets sacrificed in the name of economic good. These days, both parents are likely working, likely to miss lunch and dinner with their kids, so who is around to teach and inculcate such values? During weekends, parents might be rushing their kids all over different enrichment centres, eating lunch on the go, rushing lunch in 10 mins etc...I wonder if all these are the direct reflection of society's ill - where everyone is too focused on economics and forgot about living.

Individuals are at fault, but somethings the way individuals act are the result of the structural ills of society.

I'm not finding an excuse for them of course..just wondering :)

Anonymous said...

Only the rich and the powerful can have the privilege of people cleaning for them everytime they finish eating.But the poor,average and the blur have to psycho and force themselves and others to clean up everytime after eating or they will be call bad upbringing.I mean good upbringing should be applied to all in public areas be it hawker center or restaurants.Fair??Does it mean the poor,sick,average and the handicapped don't need to be serve??. Or our pioneer generation have bad upbringing because hawkers used to bring the food to the customer and clean up after that!.hehe.

simplefolk said...

>> nobody wants to do the dirty work of clearing trays
nobody wants to return trays to another even dirtier collection area
also cleaners are projecting negative image

>> I think the Japanese are really great at this.
you should watch this

Anonymous said...

Yes,we should bring our own pots and pans and cook and wash up at the RESTAURANTS and hawker centres also so that the business owner can INCREASE profit because NOBODY like to cook for other to eat as it project negative image.JUST collect money is easier.And remember to bring your own plastic bag to clean the rubbish to save cost as well.Maybe everybody should stand and eat to save the earth just like the Japanese do.

la papillion said...

Hi simplefolk,

Nice video, thanks for sharing :)

Mrs Sharon Sim said...

Hello Everybody,
My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of $250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:( Thank you.